1:34 PM, Jun 20, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
There have been two pieces of Palau and Uighur-related news since yesterday. The first was a New York Times op-ed by Stuart Beck, the South Pacific island of Palau's representative to the United Nations. The second comes from the Wall Street Journal, which reports that at least some of the 13 remaining Uighurs at Gitmo don't want to go to Palau.
Four of the Uighur's compatriots were recently transferred to Bermuda, which certainly has a superior nightlife to the relatively isolated and poor Palau. You would think the lack of a hopping nightlife in Palau is the real reason behind the Uighur jihadists' reticence, but no. The Journal says the Uighurs, according to Obama administration officials, "have concerns about the lack of a Uighur community in Palau, and restrictions on becoming a citizen there."
We have apparently arrived at a point where the Uighurs -- who have been rejected by "more than 100 nations" -- are being picky about their final destination.
Meanwhile, Stuart Beck is concerned about how the media has portrayed his nation's agreement to take in some of the Uighurs held at Gitmo. Beck says that media reports suggesting Palau is receiving nearly $12 million in aid per Uighur are false. Palau has been in talks with the Obama administration about renewing its new aid package, Beck says, and Palau's willingness to accept a number of Uighurs is not part of some quid pro quo.
As Beck himself notes, the initial reporting on the Uighurs-for-cash deal came from the Associated Press. The AP cited two anonymous State Department officials in the Obama administration as saying that the Uighurs' transfer was contingent upon Palau receiving $200 million in aid. $200 million in aid divided by 17 Uighurs gives you the $12 million per Uighur figure that Beck says is wrong.
That has clearly changed since the AP's account first ran. Four of the 17 Uighurs have been transferred to Bermuda, so Palau isn't taking all 17 Uighurs. And now Beck says that the $200 million figure has never been discussed. Beck says the Obama administration has "offered to pay relocation costs for the Uighurs of less than $90,000 per person" and "no one has even hinted at linking the [aid] deal to Palau's acceptance of the Uighurs."
Perhaps. The aid package is probably not intended to directly compensate Palau for its hospitality towards the Uighurs. But it is hard to believe that the aid package did not affect Palau's willingness to accept the Uighurs in the first place. Beck notes that negotiations over the amount of aid Palau will receive are ongoing because the existing package runs out later this year. That makes it even more appealing for Palau to find a way to please the Obama administration, especially after more than 100 other nations turned down the administration's request.
And here is how Beck says the Obama team explained the situation to his government:
Did Obama, or his surrogates, really describe the Uighurs detained at Gitmo in this manner? Did someone in the administration tell Palau's president that they are "innocent," "harmless," "victims of human rights violations"?
If so, this is hardly an accurate representation.
A more accurate representation of the Uighurs detained at Gitmo would have started by pointing out that all of them are members or associates of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement ("ETIM"), or its successor organization, the Turkistan Islamic Party ("TIP"). The ETIM/TIP has been designated an al Qaeda affiliate by both the UN and the United States.